The lottery is a gambling game in which tickets are sold and prizes are awarded by chance. Its earliest recorded public use is in the Low Countries of the 15th century, where it was used to raise funds for town fortifications and to help the poor. Its popularity has spread to many nations and, in many cases, is a major source of state revenue.
Like many of Shirley Jackson’s short stories, “The Lottery” is a story about human relationships and the dangers of social conformity. The story explores characterization methods, such as the way that characters’ actions reveal their personalities and the manner in which they behave with one another.
It also examines the themes of fate and tradition and how they affect human behavior. In the context of lottery, the theme of fate is particularly interesting because it suggests that life is like a game in which people are cast into different roles at random and, ultimately, fate determines their ultimate destination.
Throughout history, there have been numerous attempts to use the casting of lots to decide important issues and make decisions. However, it was not until the 18th century that a method of organizing a lottery became practical and affordable enough to be used for determining important events and distributing prizes. State lotteries are now established in most countries and the arguments for and against them, as well as their structures and evolution, show remarkable uniformity.